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Owe Carter

Wedding etiquette for couples


Organising a wedding can be surprisingly political. So we’re here to help you navigate the maze of matrimonial etiquette.

Bride and groom

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Organising a wedding is a huge undertaking. And then you’ve got what’s good and proper to consider on top of that.

So we’ve come up with some simple etiquette guidelines to follow to ensure that the day goes with just the one hitch.

Who pays for the wedding?

Although tradition dictates that the bride’s parents pay most of the wedding expenses, this isn’t expected anymore.

An average wedding in the UK costs over £20,000, which is a huge amount to demand of a family. And who would pay when there is no bride? Or two?

A potential solution is for the costs traditionally paid by the groom to be shared by the couple. And for the costs traditionally paid by the bride’s parents to be divvied up by both families.

You can read a list of who traditionally pays for what here.

This needs to be discussed and agreed as soon as possible, really. Any generous offers can be graciously received, of course.

But if none are forthcoming, then this is one you may have to take on the chin.

Unless you can get Burger King to pay for it…

Who to invite?

Most of us don’t have unlimited funds, so who to invite is generally determined by budget, and not vice-versa. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made.

But those who don’t quite make the final guest list should hopefully understand.

And you can make them feel wanted by inviting them to the stag or hen, or the post-dinner part of the wedding.

How do we manage plus ones?

If you wish to invite a guest who’s in a committed relationship, then the partner should also be invited by name.

Other guests may have dates they’d like to bring. But you’re not obliged to invite them – especially if your budget doesn’t really allow for it.

Don’t gamble here. If you put "plus guest" on someone’s invite, then you should budget for them bringing one.

Should we allow children at the wedding?

If you’re not keen on having children at the wedding, then you’re engaging in a tricky dance. In return for a comparatively disruption-free day, you run the risk of causing offence.

As luck would have it, we’ve written a full article tackling this question. Read Children at weddings: yes or no? for further guidance.

Should we stick with tradition?

It’s your wedding, so it’s your call. Many people love going down the old, new, borrowed, blue route. 

However, increasingly couples are writing their own vows and personalising their wedding. Many view the concept of ownership within a wedding to be outmoded, and shun it entirely.

So, for example, it’s perfectly reasonable for a bride to refuse to be "given away". 

What if you want a secular service? Well, you’re unlikely to be able to swing one if the ceremony’s held at a place of worship.

Who toasts whom?

Again, there’s no obligation to stick to tradition – either in terms of who makes the speeches, or who toasts who.

Although in traditional toasts, the father of the bride will request that glasses be charged to the bride and groom.

The groom traditionally thanks the bride’s parents and the guests, and then toasts the bridesmaids.

The best man also toasts the bride and groom, presumably after giving the latter a bit of a roasting.

If the bride and/or chief bridesmaid make a speech, they can toast whoever they choose.

Should we cut a cake?

Not big into cake? Not a problem. You could have a stack of doughnuts as an alternative. Or goodie bags. Or delicious cheese. Whatever you want really.

Wedding cake made of cheese

Before you eschew the cake or its variant entirely, bear in mind that it has significance. It tells your guests that it’s now ok to leave without being rude.

Who should dance with whom?

You begin the first dance, obviously.

But if you’re going traditional, the groom dances with both mothers, the bride with both fathers. And the bride’s father with the groom’s mother, and vice-versa.

Plus the best man dances with the chief bridesmaid. And then everyone can join in, shaking it left, right and centre.

Pro tip: If you believe you can’t throw any shapes, then pick a slow dance. Everyone can slow dance.

So there are certain Ps and Qs to be mindful of… But don’t forget that the most important people you need to make happy are yourselves. Good luck!


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